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Bella & Tarra: A Video Eulogy

October 28th, 2011

Bella, a dog, and Tarra, an elephant, were friends from the beginning. Such a friendship was recorded with awe and joy and, even, surprise.

Though it should have come as no surprise that friendship can, and does, exist between animals (or have we forgotten that we, too, are animals?), the world looked on in wonder at these two.

Sadly, Bella died Monday night. Here, from the first coverage of Bella & Tarra’s friendship, are the videos that record their life together, as well as the sad message of Bella’s passing from Rob Atkinson, CEO of the Elephant Sanctuary, where they lived.

Here was the beginning:

The follow up of their friendship:

The seasons they shared:



The end

My dear friends,

I write to you with very sad news. Tarra’s little dog Bella has died. We found her body on Wednesday and have been dealing with the aftermath ever since, trying to work out what happened while we look after Tarra and each other.

We noticed Bella was not with Tarra at breakfast on Tuesday and later that morning she still had not appeared. Tarra and Bella have always spent short p…eriods apart as one goes off exploring briefly on their own, but this longer absence worried us deeply and a search of the property was started which continued into the next day. The search ended tragically when Bella’s body was found close to the Asia barn that had long been home to Tarra, her five sisters and Bella. During the time of the search our usually social Tarra chose to remain alone, watched over by concerned Caregivers.

Dr. Scott, our vet of sixteen years, examined Bella for the last time and, with advice from the experts from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, determined the probable cause of death was an attack by animals, most likely coyotes. We have sent off samples to see whether there were any other contributory causes.

Having carefully examined Bella’s wounds and the place where she was found, we concluded that Bella had not been attacked near where she was found and neither could she have walked there.

As these investigations were taking place observant Caregivers, even more watchful of Tarra than usual, noticed blood on the underside of her trunk, evidence that pointed us in the direction of what likely happened that fateful night.

The most probable scenario is that during the night Bella strayed from Tarra briefly and was set upon. Tarra arrived too late to save her but was able to stop further damage being done to Bella’s body. With deep sadness and deeper wonder we come to comprehend what likely happened next—that Tarra picked Bella up and carried her home.

Further evidence in support of our belief for what happened comes from Tarra herself. After Bella had been found, Caregivers ensured Tarra had every chance to inspect Bella’s body before it was buried and to come to terms with her death, as this is an important part of the grieving process for elephants. But Tarra was not interested in either Bella or the group of Caregivers who would normally have drawn our inquisitive Girl to see what was happening.

It was only later when we had pieced together the whole picture that Tarra’s behavior at Bella’s grave made sense. Our poor, brave, loving Girl knew what had happened to her beloved Bella and, in the dark hours of the night as she carried her body home, had come to terms with her death.

Tarra’s sisters will help her through her sadness. Although we cannot take away Tarra’s pain immediately or the pain of all those that knew Bella, I do know Bella knew true love and true freedom. It will always be so for animals that find Sanctuary.

Rob Atkinson

CEO More


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  1. From Dianna Maffeo-Wilson, October 28, 2011:

    Such a beautiful story. I remember seeing them on TV quite awhile ago.

  2. From Lynda Walker, October 28, 2011:

    I am so very sorry for everyone’s loss, especially for Tarra. It was always a happt time to see these two on FB from a friends page, so happy together. I don’t know how Tarra will pick up the pieces after such love. I pray she will one day see Bella, at Rainbow Bridge. What a sight that will be!!!

  3. From rocio, October 30, 2011:

    I wish the universe embrace Bella with love and light and I hope Tarra soon recovers for having lose her friend..

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